Cook County paying costs when CPD fails to register sex offenders

June 2, 2014

(WBEZ/Robert Wildeboer)
Cook County Assistant Public Defender Amy Campanelli is also on the sex offender registry board. She says it ought to be easy for sex offenders to register so that the police know where they are.

Some Cook County public defenders say they’re having to try cases in which sex offenders are charged with failure to register, even though they’ve tried to do so. It means overburdened attorneys in an overburdened court system are having to deal with cases that shouldn’t have been brought in the first place.

As WBEZ has been reporting, the criminal registration office at the Chicago Police Department is regularly turning away people who are trying to register as sex offenders because the office is too busy. Police records show the department turned men away 601 times in just the first three months of this year.

Meaning those men can be arrested for failure to register, which results in incarceration costs, and court costs.

Amy Campanelli with the Cook County Public Defender’s Office says the office has had to take a number of those cases to trial.

“We have had successful jury trials and successful bench trials and sometimes we’ve had success at convincing the prosecutor to drop the charges when we can prove that they actually did try to register and it wasn’t a willful failure to register on the defendant’s part,” said Campanelli.

A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said there are plans to expand the criminal registration office and construction should be completed by August.